BBC Get Creative Comic Workshop

BBC-GetCreative-logo

On April 2nd 2016 I had fantastic fun running a range of comic drawing activities at OPEN Youth Trust in Norwich city centre as part of the annual BBC Get Creative Event.

The event was great – the Get Creative team even asked me to write a post of my top comic making tips for the BBC website so well worth the effort!

It went so well I’ll be back there this weekend (Saturday 23rd April) doing it all again as part of the Discover OPEN event.

So if you’re any where near the OPEN on Saturday between 1:30 and 3:30pm drop by and have a go.  All ages welcome!

What made this event different from our usual comic workshops?

A normal Essential Sequential comic drawing workshop takes a group through the extraordinary process of creating a story and artwork for a comic – depending on the group this might take hours!

Because I only had 2 hours and participants may only dip in and out of the activities I needed to come up with things that someone might do for the whole 2 hours or just do for 10 minutes but still demonstrated some valuable comic making skills – a tall order!

This is what I came up with:

Design your own Super Hero

This proved very popular with younger comic lovers – they got to choose their male or female hero’s super power (and super weakness!) and then using a template draw their own fantastically costumed super hero.

Quick 3 panel comic strips

Brien-2-2

This activity used a cut-down version of the random story generator system I use in my full workshops to quickly develop a comic told over three panels.

Practice your inking

Inking is an often overlooked and underrated part of the comic creation process – I brought along with me a range of black and white art (some drawn, some photographic) that, with the aid of some tracing paper and pens, can be turned in fabulous inked artwork.

Ready made comic creation kit

Brien-1-2

Like the 3 panel comic strip, this activity allowed participants to quickly construct a comic story – but in this case they didn’t even have to do the drawing!

I supplied ready drawn panels of seemingly random characters and events to be cut out and stuck onto a template in whatever order makes sense to the creator.  The result can then be inked using tracing paper to create an original piece of comic book art!

Want to experience a Comic Creation Workshop yourself?

If you’re interested in attending one of my Comic Creation Workshops, or are considering hosting one an at your organisation go ahead and get in touch!

All necessary checks, policies and insurances are in place to ensure safety when working with children and vulnerable adults.

Workshop running time, features and price can be configured to suit your organisation or groups needs.

Connects & Co Young Carers Comic Workshop

Connects & Co is a Norwich based organisation working with young carers who live with the effects of terminal or long-term illness, disability, mental health issues and addiction within their family.

Who attended the comic drawing workshop?

There were 10 young carers involved in the workshop, aged between 6 and 15 – a couple of the team leaders couldn’t resist joining in too, so there was plenty of comic making going on!

How the Workshop went

The group was quiet and focussed for the most part, cracking through the different stages involved in creating their comic page efficiently and earnestly.

It’s always fascinating to see how different people treat similar subject matter – there were plenty of mad scientists and pop stars cropping up in the stories produced, but they were never treated the same!

Feedback from the artists

Here are just some of the comments left by artists on the workshop:

The bit I liked most was…

  • “When they all came to life”
  • “Learning new things”
  • “Drawing the comic in pencil”

What really struck you as interesting or surprising during this workshop?

  • “How much work goes into making a comic”

What part of the workshop was most useful to the way you work?

  • “Starting rough and then neatening”

Want to experience a Comic Creation Workshop yourself?

If you’re interested in attending one of my Comic Creation Workshops, or are considering hosting one an at your organisation go ahead and get in touch!

All necessary checks, policies and insurances are in place to ensure safety when working with children and vulnerable adults.

Workshop running time, features and price can be configured to suit your organisation or groups needs.

 

Fast Forward Project Comic Workshop

FastForward comic workshop

Following the success of the Comic Workshop at this year’s Latitude festival for Culture Works East I was contacted by Oliver Payne at Musical Keys (Both organisations are based in the same building!) who thought it would be a great fit for Fast Forward, a project Musical Keys runs in partnership with NANSA and the Open Youth Trust.

Who attended the comic drawing workshop?

Fast Forward is a series of activities being run over 12 months at OPEN, a brilliantly equipped venue in the centre of Norwich.  The project offers a range of activities for young people aged 11 to 25 on the “edge of disability services” – a good cross section of which attended the four weekly comic drawing sessions that I provided.

How the Workshop went

As you’d expect with a group of young people there was a lot of fun and energy during the workshops – manifesting itself at one point in the form of a impromptu rap battle on the relative merits of various first person perspective shoot-em-ups (I can’t recall which was deemed the victor).

A number of innovations took place in this series of workshops – I gave the artists the option of working in teams on multi-page stories (usually everyone creates their own one page story), so we ended up with a couple of 4 page stories which was great! 

With the help of Ian Brownlie, one of Musical Keys regular facilitators, one of the teams (one of whom is partially sighted) experimented with collage and photocopying to create a really exciting piece of post-apocalyptic fiction!

Feedback from the artists

Here are just some of the comments left by artists on the workshop:

What really struck you as interesting or surprising during this workshop?

  • “How many stages there was to creating a comic”
  • “I think how the story came along + planned”
  • “Everyone working together on a comic”

What is the one idea that you will use in future as a result of this workshop?

  • “Do not rush a drawing although there is many stages, it is about the perfection and drawing not the time it takes”
  • “I’ll trace some of my friend Amie’s pictures”

What part of the workshop was most useful to the way you work?

  • “Teamwork – creating a page each to do with the same story”
  • “Getting ideas from other people”

Want to experience a Comic Creation Workshop yourself?

If you’re interested in attending one of my Comic Creation Workshops, or are considering hosting one an at your organisation go ahead and get in touch!

DBS checks, policies and insurances are in place to ensure safety when working with children and vulnerable adults.

Workshop running time, features and price can be configured to suit your organisation or groups needs.

Mesh Youth Group October 2015

The Mesh Youth Group runs activities for children in Gorleston as part of facilites provided by Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre Charitable Trust.  I was invited to run a one day comic workshop in the autumn half term holiday.

Who attended the comic drawing workshop?

The group I worked with was a boisterous bunch of around 30 local children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years, some of whom were on the autistic spectrum.

How the Workshop went

The children were really enthusiastic about creating their own stories and were very interested in the process – every one of them produced a brilliant page to go in the final comic.

Working with a large group like this one can lead to some small delays whilst I frantically stick bits of paper to drawing boards but the children demonstrated great patience, many choosing to help others who were struggling with getting their story right or assisting me with photocopying.

Feedback from the artists

I was very pleased to receive a lovely thank you card and a marvelous caricature of me in full superhero get-up from the children!

Also during evaluation 80% of the children said what they’d learned during the workshop would help with their school work!

Want to experience a Comic Creation Workshop yourself?

If you’re interested in attending one of my Comic Creation Workshops, or are considering hosting one an at your organisation go ahead and get in touch!

UEA Creative Industries Day: Sept 2015

UEA buildings

I’m often popping in and out of UEA in my capacity as a mentor on their Young Enterprise Scheme, so it was great to spend a bit more time than usual on campus running a Comic Drawing Workshop as part of the University’s 2015 Creative Industries Day.

Who attended the comic drawing workshop?

The workshop was attended by a group of 12 dedicated comic-curious artists coming from a range of backgrounds – there were psychology, literature and history students, freshers, care workers and even someone from the Norwich University of Arts (No pressure then!).

How the Workshop went

The workshop was held in one of the amazing new rooms in the recently renovated student union building at UEA, which I believe is usually used as a dance studio fully equipped with a mirrored wall and a bar for practicing your Plié position (which I resisted).

As always some amazing work was produced and I was impressed by the level of concentration and commitment shown by all the artists – so much so I packed up a little bit late, causing the belly dancing group who’d booked the room after me to start a bit behind schedule (apologies!).

Feedback from the artists

After every workshop I ask everyone to complete a short evaluation sheet – Here are just some of the comments left.

What really struck you as interesting or surprising during this workshop?

  • “I liked the different stages that we went through to get to the final thing, esp the use of blue pencil.”
  • “Teaching me to actually plan out and prepare the story of my own”
  • “My ability to focus. Fascinating process”

What is the one idea that you will use in future as a result of this workshop?

  • “Trying comics that are only one page (I like that concept)”
  • “The sequence Stuart used to help us build our story kept the momentum going”
  • “The process was really concise and strong and will be really good for passing onto peers interested in comics”

What part of the workshop was most useful to the way you work?

  • “Interesting tips on materials you can use and books to read!”
  • “Ideas realisation is really hard, so the story planning was both a challenge and a satisfying way of coming up with ideas”
  • “The freeform ideas thing, getting to figure out our own story with some helpful starters”

Want to experience a Comic Creation Workshop yourself?

If you’re interested in attending one of my Comic Creation Workshops, or are considering hosting one an at your organisation go ahead and get in touch!

All necessary checks, policies and insurances are in place to ensure safety when working with children and vulnerable adults.

Workshop running time, features and price can be configured to suit your organisation or groups needs.

Latitude 2015 Comic Drawing Workshop

Kids area at Latitude 2015

A few months ago I was very kindly asked by Culture Works East to run a series of comic creation workshops at the Latitude festival 2015.

I’d be working alongside video and animation production professionals, DJ and music makers and a fully stocked fashion studio tent (which my daughter was very taken with!) – so it was hardly a surprise that I was quick to accept the invitation to join them.

Creating comics in a tent

The goal of the the workshop was that each artist should produce their own one-page comic strip by completed the following sequence of tasks:

  • Plan their story’s subject, characters and events
  • Write a script describing each panel’s pictures and words
  • Sketch and refine pencil drawings of their comic strip
  • Produce a final inked version of their comic page with text

Running a workshop at a busy open-air festival naturally brings with it issues which needed to be overcome.

As part of a busy schedule of activities meant the time frame for each workshop was very tight (around 2 hours) – and I had to work around the possibility of people dipping in and out.

I would be holding the workshop in a tent at the top of a rather steep hill so had to keep equipment down to a minimum – so everything needed to fit in a couple of boxes which could be strapped to a sack barrow!

The workshops I lead usually take a whole day, to achieve so much in such a short time frame meant I had to develop a few new processes to speed things up!

Introducing the Acme Random Story Generator

Being into comics, it should come as no surprise that I’m also no stranger to a board game, so I decided, in order to speed up the story creation process, we’d use dice to randomly generate the basic frame work of their story.

I designed a series of worksheet where, by rolling a normal 6 sided die, each artist is presented with the basic ingredients for their story:

  • Where and When the story happens
  • Who does the story feature (2 characters)
  • What Event happens to them

So, for example, you could be presented with a story which takes place in jungle (Where) at night (When), featuring a Super Hero (Person 1) and a Bus Driver (Person 2) when, suddenly, an alien invasion occurs (the Event).

Using those basic building blocks the artists can plan out the beginning, middle and end of their story, followed by a basic script describing what each panel of their comic would portray and what the characters would say.

I thought it was just me but apparently rolling a few dice makes everything more fun!

Drawing and Inking the comic

Once the script was done we started drawing – very roughly at first at A5.  Just like the Barrington Farm workshop, The initial pencil drawings were then photocopied and expanded to A4.

The expanded photocopy was taped to a drawing board, then tracing paper was taped over that.
Using a blue colouring pencil the artist was then ready to produce a drawing based on the rough sketch below the tracing paper in blue line.

The importance of the blue line is that it will be eliminated from the final picture in post production, leaving only the black ink that will be drawn over it.

The blue line version was then photocopied and inked using black pen – this final inked drawing was then scanned and saved ready for insertion in the final comic which is available to download now!

The end of a great weekend at Latitude

It was an absolute pleasure to work with people with such an avid interest in comics – sometimes it was a real struggle to stop chatting about our favourite characters and get down to the work in hand!

I‘m very grateful to Elli Chapman and Helen Stonely at Culture Works East for inviting me to join their team for this special event and look forward to doing plenty more with them in the future.

The final comic will soon be available for download at the Culture Works East website.

Barrington Farm Comic Workshop

final comic coloured artwork

In winter 2014 I was invited by the Senior Events Coordinator at Barrington Farm, a day service centre for adults with learning difficulties, to hold a Sequential Art Workshop in their fantastic Art Barn.

I was given 3 days to show them how to write a script, draw, ink and colour a comic page each.

Their comic pages would then get professionally lettered and printed as an A5 comic so they could all have a copy with some left over for distribution or sale.

So, at the end of Feb 2015, I rolled up with my box of paper, pens and drawing boards ready to make some comics!

Download a comic from a recent workshop

What goes on at the Barrington Farm Art Barn?

Barrington Farm is an independent day services centre project near Walcott in North Norfolk.  It’s an amazing place encouraging integration into the community for people with a wide range of learning difficulties.

The Art Barn itself is a beautifully renovated farm building (a barn, unsurprisingly!) – a really pleasant and inspiring space to work in.

The group of clients I  worked with comprised a range of abilities – all active and motivated artists, regularly exhibiting and selling work at local and national events.

Day 1: Writing a comic script

A clear, simple script of what each comic panel needs to show and say is essential.

This can be the trickiest part of the workshop (artists tend to want to dive in with the drawing!) but it can also be loads of fun and really exciting!

Some workshops I hold each artist works on a story told over multiple pages, but in this case everyone was doing a self-contained story on just a single page.

It sounds simple, but it requires great focus!

comic workshop story worksheets
The story writing worksheets

Using the odd worksheet and a lot of wild gesticulation (mainly emanating from me), the group started work on deciding the following things about their story:

  • Where and when will the story take place?
  • Who will the story involve or happen to?
  • What will happen to them?

Once everyone had that information down we moved onto planning a beginning, middle and end for each story – remembering that it would need to be told in a maximum of 8 or 9 panels!

At the end of the session, by hook or by crook,  everybody had a simple script for their comic book page describing what images and text were required in each panel.

An amazing range of stories resulted – ranging from Beano-style superhero pastiche to childhood recollections.  One of the stories could safely be described as Diehard On A Plane in 6 panels!

Day 2: Pencilling the comic strip

Final comic page pencils
Chris’ final pencil drawing for his comic book page

Day two involved a lot of drawing!

Often in large scale comic production each part of the process is done by different people – The “Penciller” (the artist who does the initial pencil drawing) is often not responsible for the ink drawing that you see in the final printed copy (this is done by the “Inker”).

With a big group working on a long, continuous story I might use this production-line approach, but for Barrington farm it was important that each client felt ownership of their page – so each artist did it all!

  • Script writing
  • Pencilling
  • Inking and colouring

I always encourage everyone to start drawing as roughly as possible – planning out the characters or objects appearing in each panel as rudimentary shapes, remembering to take account of any captions or text which also needs to appear in the panel.

The size of these initial rough sketches range from actual size of the final comic page (A5) down to quarter of that size (Often called a thumbnail sketch) – whatever works best for the artist.

The rough sketch is then photocopied, expanded and printed out on an A3 sheet which can then be traced, adding details and refining the drawing.

This process of starting rough then copying & resizing and then redrawing & refining is crucial to the comic creation process and a valuable discipline which students can apply to other areas of their work and lives.

Day three: Inking and colouring

In order to come out looking really good in print, comics need a bit more contrast than just pencil on paper –  this is where Inking comes in.

By the end of Day 2 all the artists had a final A3 pencil drawing of their comic book page ready for inking using some fantastic pens that I bring along to every workshop.

But wait! – If you start drawing in pen straight onto a lovely pencil version and make a mistake or don’t like the end result, you’d have to start all over again with a new pencil drawing!

To get around this I scan the A3 pencil drawings and, using a bit of Photoshop jiggery-pokery (that’s a technical term), convert all the black pencil lines to a nice blue colour.

comic page pencils and blue version
The original pencil drawing (left) and blue line version (middle) & final inked image (right) ready for inking.

There are a couple of reasons for creating a blue line version of the pencil drawing;

  1. Black ink can be applied over the top of the blue line version, and if any accidents occur another Blue line copy can be printed out.
  2. Once the inking is complete, the final sheet can be scanned and then (again, using Photoshop jiggery-pokery) any blue still remaining can be removed, leaving only the black ink!

The client’s final inked pages were scanned and printed out again (rest assured, I only use recycled or Carbon neutral paper!), with the contrast turned down, ready for colouring done using some more pretty cool pens which I brought along with me.

By the end of the day everyone had inked and coloured their comic book pages ready for lettering.

final comic coloured artwork
The final coloured comic artwork still on drawing boards

Lettering the Final Comic Book

Back in my lair, during an extended period of tea drinking and postproduction, all the final inked and coloured pages were cleaned up, composited, lettered and arranged in a comic book layout ready to be sent to the printers.

The great thing about these workshops is that I think I probably learn as much as those I’m teaching!

Here’s a few pages of the comic book to give you a flavour of what the group achieved.

Download your Free copy of the finished Comic Now!

If you’d like to see the end result of the workshop in all it’s glory you can download a Free PDF copy of the Barrington Farm Comic now!

Interested in attending or holding a Comics Drawing workshop?